Sunday, February 28, 2010

Yes, We Can't

Elementary logic is arguably the most basic ingredient to fruitful argumentation. Nevertheless, you don't have to look far in the world wide web to figure most people have one or the other problem with it. I blame English grammar for it.

For example, in classical logic a double negation of a statement is equivalent to the statement itself. Ergo, "We can visit my parents," means the same as "We can not not visit my parents," which however means we have to visit them. Thus, we have to visit my parents whenever we can. But what's even better is that "I could care less" actually means "I couldn't care less." According to that logic "Yes, we can!" means the same as "Yes, we can't!" This clearly has extraordinary explanatory power when it comes to American politics. And let's not even get started on issues like boxing rings that are actually square, and that one fills in a form by filling it out, and so on.

Another logic relation that people often stumble over is that "From A follows B" is equivalent to "From not B follows not A" and not to "From not A follows not B," which would be equivalent to "From B follows A." Consequently, if you hypothesize that "All of reality is mathematics" it does not follow "All of mathematics is real." Neither does "All of mathematics is real" mean that "All what's real is mathematics."

Then, let's have a look at what it means for an argument to be circular. A circular argument is not necessarily wrong, it just doesn't have explanatory power. Consider you ask an alcoholic why he drinks: "I drink to forget," he tells you. "Well, what do you want to forget?" you ask. "That I drink." We laugh about that exactly because it doesn't explain anything. You could just as well not drink and not forget that you don't drink. However, there is nothing logically wrong with his explanation. Circular arguments are very common mistakes in proofs, when you accidentally make an assumption that already implies the outcome. For example, if you want to show free will exists, you better not use free will as an assumption in your argument.

Finally, let me expand on one of the few enlightened comments to our recent post, made by Neil B on what it means for something to be tautologically true: "if we thought everything that could be logically inferred directly was superfluous to state, then the entire body of what is analytically derivable from given evidence should just remain unsaid." In fact the value of logical conclusion is subjective. If it follows from the assumptions (or axioms) the question whether or not you find something "tautologially true" depends on how difficult it is for you to understand the conclusion. Given the standard model lagrangian, next-to-next-to-next-to leading order contributions to the top quark pair production are at least to me not obvious. Given the Maxwell equations, the continuity equation is "tautologically true." But that might not be obvious to everybody. Or maybe it might not not be not obvious. Now I'm confused. No, I'm not. Wait....


  1. If this was inspired by the recent "Interna" unpleasantness, then props to you, because Logic (viva la Aristotle!) is a very important discussion, and you're cutting to the heart of the matter.

    "Anthropic" is the ultimate tautology in my opinion. I disdain it in the greatest extreme. It is the worst "backing up against the wall" non-defense defense I can think of. I can go on about the subject but just look up Anthropic" at Wiki and each should judge for themselves.

    I'm sick of the whole subject frankly, so I will leave it now and move on to theories that are actually provable or falsifiable, and don't remind me of my first week in undergraduate college listening to some Sophomore Philosophy nut who once read just enough of Kant or Sartre to be dangerous, and pontificated like he really knew what the hell he's talking about.

    Thank you, Bee.

  2. Hi Bee,

    Just before I have to leave for the day I noticed this post of yours. It is indeed interesting what you described as the confusion of what stands as being a logical statement and something I would agree forms to be a great source of confusion and misunderstanding not only in science. I’ve often been amused to find that many believe that when Descartes declared “I think therefore I am” has it equivalent to have true that “ because I am I’m able to think” :-)



  3. Hi Bee,

    I cannot not understand you and I defy anyone else to be different!


  4. I must apologize to Stefen and Bee if my earlier comment caused offense.

    My own concept of the information loss problem finds that looking at black holes for information loss is ridiculous. ADS/CFT or some other mechanism will insure information is not lost. The real issue is information gain. The universe does not conserve energy in GR, as Sean Carroll recently conceded at Cosmic Variance. The consequence is that information is being added constantly to the universe at large. The universe is not deterministic. Information it possesses at any instant is not lost, but becomes increasingly irrelevant as time progresses.

  5. Hi Arun,

    LOL, I love you man. You have a great sense of humor, something in too short supply in this overly passionate world of ours. Keep on trucking. Brilliant blog you have, btw. Keep on truckin'.

    Hi Phil,

    I love Descartes too, but there's another Philosopher who was a latecomer like Kant and "Mr. Happy" (sarcasm) Sartre, and in modern times: Singer, who muddied up the waters a bit, compared to the next 3 guys.

    It really DOES come down to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, doesn't it? THEY created our culture. If not them, then who, or whom?

    When I was a college Freshmen, I took, as an elective, the course "Introduction to Logic" as taught by Catholic University of America's Philosophy department. That course should be a requirement for every Science and Engineering student. No, every college student. No, every 14-yr-old. So much bullshit would be avoided if it was a requirement. What an eye-opening course, and I'm happy I took it young at the age of 18.

    "Logic" post-dated Counting (fine) and Arithmetic (odd), but it is the backbone of both Mathematics and Physics.

    Phil explores this most important of subjects at his blog, beginning here.

  6. Steven: Right, the anthropic argument! While writing I kept thinking there was something else I wanted to mention but then forgot. Thanks for reminding me. The anthropic principle is an excellent example for a circular argument. It explains our observation of live-enabling values for the parameters in the standard model by saying if they had not the values we couldn't observe them. ("Observation of parameters possible => Parameters allow for existence of life." Explained by: "If existence of life not possible with parameters => observation of parameters not possible" which is the same statement.) Ergo, the anthropic principle is certainly true, but doesn't explain why there shouldn't be values that we don't observe (compare to example with the alcoholic). Absent a better explanation, you're then lead to believe in the multiverse.

    Let me mention that this does not mean the anthropic argument is entirely useless, as I have pointed out here. That's because the statement "parameters allow for the existence of life" puts constraints on the parameters that can be non obvious. Not be obvious? Be not obvious? *lol* Best,


  7. BC Admin: You're making two assumptions there which are wrong a) energy is information b) because energy is not conserved in GR, the evolution is non-deterministic.

    Possibly your confusion stems from the non-conservation of energy. It is correct that in GR energy is not in general conserved in any meaningful way, but people tend to misunderstand what this means. In GR you should express stress and energy in the stress-energy tensor whose components are densities rather than integrated quantities like the total energy. The stress-energy tensor is (covariantly) conserved (in fact, this conservation is an ingredient to derive the field equations). The non-conservation of energy has nothing to do with non-determinism whatsoever. In any case, this is entirely off-topic and does not belong in this comment section. Best,


  8. /*.. in classical logic a double negation of a statement is equivalent to the statement itself..*/

    That's right, but in many languages (including German, especially in Bavarian dialect) double negation is commonly used. For example "Des hob i no nia ned g'hört" simply means "I have never not heard (of) that". Therefore in Czech language the usage of double negation is often considered as a germanism.

    This is why some non-native English writers (like me) are using double negation in discussions occasionally.

  9. Zephir: Yes, that's right, I've heard it occasionally. In Germany it's a very local phenomenon though, you wouldn't use it where I've grown up. You also have that double negation in English. I'm not entirely sure where I picked it up, but I've found myself saying things like "I don't see nothing." When I actually mean "I see nothing" (or "I don't see anything.) The funny thing is though that it actually doesn't make much of a difference. More often than not it's entirely clear from the context what you mean.

    There is even a Wikipedia entry on it! Best,


  10. I just recalled that there was an commentary in the Globe and Mail the other day on some more weird grammar rules: Why we shouldn't banish tricky words:

    "A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column on unintentionally confusing phrases, especially those for time, such as "push the date forward." This provoked many readers to send in other examples of everyday locutions that they just can't figure out. One that interests me particularly was sent in by John Kalbfleisch, who is baffled by the phrase "if not," as used in sentences such as, "They download most, if not all, their movies." Kalbfleisch gave me two more such sentences taken from this newspaper: "They try to save the lives, if not the arms and legs, of Haiti's earthquake victims," and "It is to maintain, if not expand the mission in Afghanistan."

    The phrase "if not" seems to have different meanings in these sentences. Kalbfleisch says that he would expect "if not" to mean something like "though not." But in the first example here, it probably means the opposite: "They download most and possibly even all their movies." And in the sentence about saving lives, it seems to mean something else again.

    Something like, "They try to save at least the lives if they cannot save the arms and legs." The third example probably means, again, "maintain and possibly even expand."

  11. Concerning circular reasoning, from Goedel theorem follows, all formal theories are necesarrilly tautological by their very nature. In AWT it's possible to demonstrate easily by using of implicate geometry developed by D. Bohm, in which tautologies are scalars, i.e. zero rank tensors, implications are vectors, i.e. one-rank tensors in causual space-time.

    Every formal theory is based on postulate set, i.e. various tautologies and extrapolates them along space-time manifolds, which are representing theory. These postulates must be mutually independent - if they wouldn't, theory would become singular, i.e. tautological along certain dimension. But independent postulates are mutually inconsistent - if they wouldn't, we could replace two or more postulates by single one, thus replacing them by tautology.

    In such way, all logical theories are inconsistent at the same moment - if they wouldn't, they couldn't be logical anymore. Therefore usage of circular reasoning shouldn't be very surprising in various discussion, it just reflects tautological nature of observable reality, where all information travels along large circles or loops, like transversal waves through nested foam of Aether fluctuations.

  12. Bee,

    Thank you, for the response, I just wanted to get my apology to you. But just for the record, I am quite aware that energy is not information.

  13. Thanks. Apology accepted. Okay, then I probably misunderstood your previous comment.

  14. According to some philosophical view, mathematics is a body of analytical truth., which means deduction doesn't really add anything 'new'.
    But I think we can say that for us human, the longer the chain of deduction, the more meaningful or surprising the conclusion might be.
    Maybe we can even define something called 'analytical entropy' on mathematical reasoning? ;)

  15. Not sure the length of the chain of deduction matters for the surprise-value of the conclusion if you've made a circle ;-)

  16. So yes we can means yes we can't?

    Ok, at least that explains the complete anti climax that came with the Obama administration. A thousand fancy promises and everything is still going in the former administrations footstep. Example, the first decision Obama took as a president was to close Guatanomo (you know, that was in the middle of the night just after being sworn in). Did it happen?

    I'm happy this has been settled :)

  17. I think that many illogical uses of language have a metalinguistic content, usually emotional in character. The double negative is often an intensifier. A phrase such as "I could care less" is intentionally sarcastic. In effect, these uses of language make use our knowledge of the normal structure of language to "jump outside" that structure. This applies to almost all of the traditional literary devices (metaphor, etc) as well.

  18. CIP: Sure. The problem with sarcasm, as any type of humor, is if goes undetected. I recall that once I gave somebody a long speech on what sort of calamities he'd cause with insisting on [something], and finished saying "I see no problem at all." Unfortunately, he only listened to the last sentence and took it seriously. Shit happens ;-p Best,


  19. "Not sure the length of the chain of deduction matters for the surprise-value of the conclusion if you've made a circle ;-)"

    Maybe by length we should mean the shortest distance among all possible distances..something similar to the distance in graph theory.

  20. Hi Phil,

    At the risk of going off-topic
    ...when Descartes declared “I think therefore I am” — would you agree that the "I think" can be arrived through induction and induction only? The self and its process of thinking is arrived at through experience only? Descartes is defeated before he even gets started?


  21. Hi Bee,
    The problem with sarcasm, as any type of humor, is if goes undetected.

    As I recall it, it takes three to truly enjoy a joke - one to narrate it, one to listen and get it, and another to listen and not get it.


  22. Descartes first wrote "I think I think that I might only think I'm thinking about what I think I am, therefore I think I am thinking about what I think." But the editor cut the sentence ;-)

  23. Regarding tautologies in general (are you listening, Susskind and Polchinski?) who was the great Philosopher who once said:

    "Thinking is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see. It's getting hard to conclude but it all works out, it doesn't matter much to me."

    Oops, I misquoted. The correct quote is:

    "Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see. It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn't matter much to me."
    ... John Lennon, "Strawberry Field Forever"

    Living? Thinking? What's the difference? Conclude? Be someone? Ditto.

  24. Hello,
    didn't Descartes write:
    "Cogito, ergo sum" ?
    (im not sure about the comma)
    A famous German political cabaret
    artist of the 30ties, Werner Fink,
    said :
    Ich bin also, denke ich.
    instead of.
    Ich denke, also bin ich
    I think this is not translatble.

  25. Dear Bee,

    About circular reasoning, the example that you chose in your post inspired me a case in which they could be effectively important as a research objective.

    It appears to me that circular reasoning can explain why certain persons are stuck to a behaviour. If this has in parallel a neurological structure, which is currently observed in studies, then it may lead to a neurobiological explanation of obsessions due to closed neural circuitry. I am not sure whether this was demonstrated, but it sounds plausible to think so.


  26. One cannot but be disappointed that voices of equal merit have been cruelly excluded by logic, rigor, and cogency. God said it, I heard it, that's it:

    not(not(p or q) or not(p or not(q)) = p

  27. Hi Jérôme,

    Interesting thought. You mean that a cognitive process of "thinking in circles" might have a neurological basis in that the use and activation of certain brain regions forms a loop that closes back in itself? Btw, there was an excellent article in the NYT yesterday Depression's Upside about the usefulness or uselessness of "rumination." Best,


  28. Heh, just when I thought we'd never hear about this again (except from a few outside stragglers)! Well thanks for props, Bee. Do note, I misquoted LM (not misunderstood, I just read it wrong) about the P, Q stuff, which got things off track. (Correct form given and explained here, with A, B subbing.) But what I wanted to say about "tautologies" per se is still on point as amplified here. Indeed, a tautology is not a circular argument. A tautology is a true equivalence, just alleged to be superfluous. But that depends.

    OTOH, a circular argument can turn out right or wrong by luck. Fallacies in general do not usually *have* to produce wrong results. They just aren't reliable. Consider a dog saying, "I have four legs, dogs have four legs, therefore I am a dog." What if a cat said the very same words ...

    A real example of abuse of circular argument in physics is the way strong advocates of the decoherence interpretation (eh, couldn't help myself) utilize measurement results - the quantum probabilities, which are already incorporated into the density matrix along with classical probability of wave function character (like, sometimes H and sometimes V polarization.) But then, strong DI advocates like Zurek say that what happens to those probabilities in the DM then explains (in some sense) why the wave function collapses into specific measurements. Penrose and others knock that too but it has draw, maybe because people seek "closure."

  29. I note misunderstanding of the better part of the anthropic principle. The tautological version is indeed silly, because of course there has to be consistency between original conditions (life friendly, LF for short now) and outcome (formation of life, if it does.) But that's the fault of doubters who avoided the original speculation. That speculation was about the laws themselves in terms of reason for being: why do the laws of physics happen to be those which are LF, as a first step (not as, to be circularly consistent with outcomes)? IOW, why a universe with LF laws and life, instead of a universe with life-unfriendly laws and no life?

    More to the point, why would something supposed (by those who don't see a "purpose" in the universe) to not be deliberately or in some sense geared for our existence, be tuned so we can exist? It is that itself, not the consistency issue which is circular. A dead world would be just as self-consistent and just as real, just no one there to notice. Why is it objectively this way, and not that way?

    Note that a fundamental rationale for things being this or that way doesn't have to be like a mind with thoughts etc., it can be a sort of background logic of reality - which need not specifically exclude greater purposes. If "symmetry" and "lawfulness" are "important" to whatever is a Given, why not "thinking" and such?

  30. Logic is the art of thinking; grammar, the art of inventing symbols and combining them to express thought; and rhetoric, the art of communicating thought from one mind to another, the adaptation of language to circumstance.Sister Miriam Joseph

    I have to wonder about the title of Lee Smolin's book entitled "Three Roads to quantum Gravity?"

    Pure coincidence, I'm sure.:)

    But I imagine, if the times were different in historical context and if such a work would have been presented in this medieval context, one might have thought of the evolution of the scientist to who they are in their education today?

    Quantum Gravity(the Trivium).

    Is the context of Quantum Gravity much different in rhetoric(culminating)as in that time?

    Again too, is the understanding of the interchange of inductive deductive applications as a toposensual interaction to deriving the point, of what is self evident.

    Of course, one side of that is the mathematics. If one engages with regard to Pirsig's work you will know what I mean.


  31. For fear of stating the obvious, "natural" languages have very little to do with completely artificial languages such as "formal" logic. When a mother says to her child: "If you eat your dinner, you may have dessert" (p implies q), everybody (at least I hope everybody) knows that what she really wants to say is the INVERSE (not p implies not q) of this conditional, namely: "If you don't eat dinner, then you may not have dessert". The contrapositive of this inverse (q implies p), which happens to be the converse of the original conditional :"If you may have dessert, then you eat your dinner" doesn't make much sense. The contrapositive of the original contional (not q implies not p) or "If you may not have dessert, then you don't eat your dinner" doesn't make much sense either. Sure, most people have problems with formal logic, but I'm afraid some people seem to have more problems with natural languages.

  32. Hi Steven,

    Yes Socrates, Platoand Aristotle certainly stand out as turning points in the long history of discovery which has been tempered and moulded by the reason found only in logic. The thing I find interesting is that logic itself not only provides answers to our queries, yet more importantly points out what questions still are required to be answered and to remind us exactly how far we have to go to have things all understood.

    Most importantly the times I find when this is best realized is when our logic is brought to have us to arrive at seeming paradox, which has always lead not to indicate the failings of logic, yet only our failings in having enough. I would say the greatest triumph of logic was that of Kurt Godel, where a paradox lead him to the realization that even mathematics will always only be a part of what’s needed to explain all that can be known. So when I hear statements like all is Mathematics it indicates to me that those that have made them still fail to understand the significance of what logic stands as being in both the realization and relief of our ignorance as to mwhy things are the way that they are.



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  34. Johan,

    Just in case your comment was addressed at me, please note this thread is labeled as "humor." Best,


  35. Neil,

    Yes, I had noted you misquoted Lubos, but this was clarified quickly at the previous post. Best,


  36. Hi Arun,

    .when Descartes declared “I think therefore I am” — would you agree that the "I think" can be arrived through induction and induction only? The self and its process of thinking is arrived at through experience only? Descartes is defeated before he even gets started?

    To the first part I would say no, as I consider that thinking in the purest sense is to have one able to know truth and that the limitation of induction when used exclusively is to have truth become a thing that is statistically determined as to only represent what has the best chance of being true. For me this at best shows us where truth has us as being at any one moment, leaving little indication as to where it stems from or ultimately where it will it lead. Deduction on the other hand assumes there is such a thing as ultimate truth and it only fails us when such assumptions are found not to be. So I consider deduction as the true instrument for measuring truth while induction serves only as the way we can calibrate the instrument as to have it as capable and reliable as possible.



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  38. Yes, humor, but people are going to talk about logic! Speaking of natural v. logical language: in strict logic, there is a difference between the inclusive "or" ("OR" in computer programming) that includes the case "both"; versus the exclusive "or" ("XOR") that means one or the other, but *not both.* But in everyday parlance and even philosophical discourse, people often use "or" to mean XOR. They sometimes mix XOR, with no clear separation, with IOR (which I use for inclusive OR to make a distinction.) I think that causes confusion.

    BTW, it is possible to find actual probability functions for logical operators, not just Y/N distinction. Take a, b etc. to show probability. For NOT a we have 1 - a. For a AND b we get ab. For a OR b we get a + b - ab, and for a XOR b we get a + b - 2ab. This shows the probability of the combination. So if there's a chance of a = 0.4 and b = 0.3, the chance of getting at least one or the other is 0.58, but if we wanted only a XOR b the chance drops to 0.46.

    These are derived from adding the exclusive outcomes in combination. Hence, a OR b = (a AND NOT b) + (NOT a AND b) + (a AND b)
    = a(1 - b) + (1 - a)b + ab
    = a + b - ab.
    One can also combine these into equations, and test for the logical status by using 1 = true and zero = false. Try using 0.5 etc. for "maybe" and you can even see when the combination might be true! (and how much so.) All this is not widely known, and I have trouble finding about it out there. (Ask, see how few knew. Did you? ;-)

    PS: I'm glad you have the remove comment option, Bee, since I make lots of errors while pounding out text and have to replace often. Sorry for the confusion engendered to email-ees.

  39. One striking example of a phrase acutally meaning the opposite is the British "quite a few" as in "he has got quite a few books".


    You could also make a list of words used when the situation would best be described by the opposite notion, like "obvious". (Most of the time when the word "obvious" is used there is at least one person to whom it is not obvious, and those persons are the ones addressed).

    But, Bee, if you blame English grammer you should - for the sake of fairness - also mention that the amazing concatenation function in German has completly unspecified semantics.
    The "Feuerwehr" fights the fire, the "Bundeswehr" does not fight the Bund, at least we all hope it won't.

  40. ...and I always liked the slogan of Horst Schlämmer better than the one of Obama: "Yes, weekend!"

  41. Hi Tim,

    Well, yes, German grammar doesn't make much more sense, but arguably English is more widely used. I was very confused at some point about the use of the word "some" as in "Some friends!" I believe it means something like the German word "schön" (lit: pretty) as in "schöner Scheiss" (lit: pretty shit) or "schöne Freunde!" (lit: pretty friends) meaning they're not good friends. Best,


  42. Humor, eh? Hm, I missed that, dagnabbit. OK, then ...

    Hey Neil, isn't Logic humorous? Or can be? I'm reminded of the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the "witch test." I probably have this completely wrong, but wasn't the test something like you weigh the accused young woman with rocks and throw her in the pond and wait 5 minutes? If she doesn't float then oops, we bad, she wasn't a witch and you can retrieve her drowned body and give her a proper Christian burial. If she does float however she's definitely a witch so you can hang her. :-)

    Hey Plato, thanks for that Trivium link. I know more about Pythagoras other than his famous theorem (and the other pre-Socratic philosophers*) today thanks to you, which pleases this intellectual masochists such as myself. :-)

    * -
    The Ethiops say that their gods are flat-nosed and black,
    While the Thracians say that theirs have blue eyes and red hair.
    Yet if cattle or horses or lions had hands and could draw,
    And could sculpt like men, then the horses would draw their gods
    Like horses, and cattle like cattle; and each they would shape
    Bodies of gods in the likeness, each kind, of their own.

    ... Xenophanes of Colophon (570-475 B.C.)
    For Deutsch and Carroll: BCE)


  43. She's a witch! <=== lol

    "She turned me into a Newt!" Pause. "I got better."

    Witches are made of wood and weigh as much as a duck!

    Thanks God for Hooke and Boyle. :-)

  44. Hi B.,
    I did not have anyone particular in mind. And in the fun spirit of this thread, may I recommend your readers John Allen Paulos' "I Think, Therefore I Laugh [The Flip Side of Philosophy]". The introduction starts with a Wittgenstein quote: "a serious and good philosophical work could be written that would consist entirely of jokes". Or perhaps they would prefer his "Mathematics and Humor: A Study of the Logic of Humor". Both highly recommended!

  45. So, Phil, we have a priori knowledge, such as the ideas of "I" and "think" that precede any experience?

  46. Yes, logic can be humorous as per the execrable witch argument (BTW "real thinkers" in the Middle Ages were quite adept at logic. REM it may be their assumptions which were off!)

    And "not to start" (which means it might!) a political argument, but come cogent observers note that the Right runs into more logic problems than the Left. Hence Limbaugh saying that it's arrogant to think humans can affect the climate, hence it can't. (They are particularly susceptible to having personal considerations contaminate the objective logic. But many are quite cogent and able, like James J. Kilpatrick when arguing Constitutional law.)

    BTW Bee you likely learned that "funny" can mean peculiar rather than humorous (or both.) As for "some": technically (like "sometimes", it means a portion of a group: ie at least one but not all. This is the use in logic, as in "some men are bachelors" (philosophers like to utilize bachelors and bald men, many of them are - so figure.) Yet even that is abused like "or", since "some" is some-times loosely used for "at least one", ie "some or all." Fascinating writer Robert Anton Wilson coined "sumbunall" to distinguish the original specific.

    Then there is the usage: a modest or indeterminate portion ("I want some beer.") Even that is consistent with "some of all the beer in the world."

    BTW "obvious" in phil. discourse is supposed mean, what is really "obvious." However, mull on this: how can we be sure of the "axioms" that we use to "get off the ground" and prove everything else with?

    I went thru a lot of this stuff as you might guess, more than "real science." One cute thing, is the ambiguous status of certain problem statements. The type of thing or fuzzy category boundaries aren't the cause. For example: "The present King of France is bald" (;-): True or false? Since there is no proper referent, it isn't clear. "True" implies there is a King and he is bald, but "false" implies there's a King and he's not bald. See, no simple T/F answer really characterizes the entire validity issue. Same for "Meanie has stopped beating his wife" etc. Sometimes dishonest or dumb lawyers, judges, others in government and business (science?) etc. actually use some forms of this, often more complicated and harder to detect.

  47. Neil: Yes, I know there's funny-haha and funny-peculiar. Just that I often accidentally use funny when it's not clear what I mean. Trying to change that to amusing or something. Best,


  48. Hi Bee,

    The way you perceive languages as related to one's logical capacity is interesting.

    I could tell long and much about all the What-for's one can have on one's mind when learning the German language. E.g., what's the point in having "cases" (Akkusativ, Dativ, etc.)? Nobody needs cases in French and in English, and it works well anyway.

    But the fact is that French, English and German people do not see the world exactly in the same way. Cases allow one to displace concepts within the same sentence, making them more modular, while without cases the historical organization of words has more importance. The way the brain processes ideas appears to be then quite different with respect to each language. To me, this explains why, for example, French scientists can deal with fuzzy and awkward situations (non-commutativity, Lebesgue integral), German with organization of things (theory of sets).

  49. Hi Jérôme,

    Yes, it's an interesting topic. I read some articles here and there on the relation between language and learning and language and thinking. Most recent one I recall was something about that American kids are better at figuring out some abstract relations allegedly because English has no direct link between the written and spoken word. Can't recall the details but wasn't convinced.

    In any case, as you probably know, the use of different cases in German has the effect that it's pretty much impossible to translate anything but the simplest sentences directly into English. I have repeatedly come across translations (probably made with help of some software) where the meaning of a sentence got entirely lost since in English there is a large degeneracy in adjectives and pronouns. One could probably say the direct translation is an irreversible process ;-) Best,


  50. Jérôme, all: look up "Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis" (proposed ca 1930 by linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, about how different languages affect thinking.) I was taught about it from David Sapir, son of Edward. It goes beyond the how many words for snow, to structure (like Hopi language referring to processes more than things.) All this is of interest to physicists, who should wonder if their idea and talking about reality is conditioned by their language. Maybe a Hopi quantum physicist could find a way to talk about wave functions and measurement that didn't seem paradoxical.

    BTW many were hoping that "analytical philosophy" would cut thru the tangle and relativity of languages, but instead it ended up enshrining those very prejudices via the "ordinary language" movement. Yes, natural language can indeed say more, but they allowed the insinuations of our semantic tropes to seem to define reality and the limits of thought.

  51. Interesting analogy that left and right Neil. To far to one side you are all math and to far to the left.....Phil got it.

    So one would lack the "inner/outer," to deduce the relevance of that toposensual relation with the world around them. Too, completely consume it.

    It would seem apparent to me that language and grammar would be closely related?:) The intonations "ring the brain" in different ways:) So master of logic is master not only of the language but master of rhetoric, as we wait for the demonstrations.

    Steven(hyperlinkboy)those are neurons connecting.


  52. I am still trying to find the humorous in it. Maybe the joke factor itself on an enlightened recognition of the truth about it?

    So to say, that what Socrates was "listening for" could have happened at any moment, yet, it was fettered away on the happening and politico of the day, when it was a connection, drafted to open the soul's door to the collective unconscious readily available for invention, as well as, what Plato said "could exist" and was just waiting to be recognized or discovered.

    Socratic methods are still being taught today.:)

    Can one doubt who that "I" can be? Where is that "I" speaking from? Have you discovered it's natural "predisposition" yet? How do you know? Maybe I did not interpret what Socrates was "listening for" correctly?

    Without an education, how is it anyone could have arrived at a inductive/deductive relationship moving forward "yet to be explained?"

    So, you are not happy with your assumptions, and yet, even after all the mathematical deductions that could lead you too, it being self evident. Then it becomes somebodies else point gathered to move forward, so as to muster a question "about," as to how you got there, and then move beyond it.


  53. Hi Bee,

    “ Either it will rain today or it won’t”

    As I recall what had you to consider this topic was in part due to a dispute as to where or when tautological statements are non-trivially significant and therein useful. The problem being of course being that more often than not tautologies turn out to be totally useless. However for instance when it comes to things like mathematics the dream had been for years to have it reduced to virtually a collection of such statements and yet only to have Kurt Godel show that such an ambition not to be attainable within its self capable limits. None the less often in mathematics or with everyday problem solving, tautology has proven very useful at times to have our questions left no choice but to be answered, with one of my favourite being an example given by John D. Barrow in his book “Pi in The Sky-Thinking, Counting and Being”:

    “Suppose you were incarcerated along with a demon and an angel inside a room which had two doors. One of these doors leads to safety; the other leads to destruction. The demon always tells lies and the angel always tells the truth. You have the opportunity to ask only one question in order to find the door to safety and you will receive only one answer. Unfortunately the two spirits are both invisible, and so you have no way of knowing which of them has answered your question. What question should you ask in order to make good your escape?

    What you require is a question that is tautological; that is it has the same answer in all circumstances and hence regardless of the respondent. Your strategy is to ask what door the other spirit would have recommended you exit through to escape to safety. Then leave through the other door. If you were answered by the demon, he would have lied and pointed you towards the door to destruction, the opposite of what the angel would have done. On the other hand if the angel had replied, she would have pointed to the door of destruction, to which she knows the demon would have directed you. Thus both answer your question with a lie irrespective of their identity. If you take the other door it always leads to safety.”

    This has often had me to wonder if things like the apparent irreducible uncertainty found in nature is resultant of itself not having certainty of action(s), or rather simply not yet having discovered as to be able to ask the right question by which they might be known. That is as demonstrated by this example of the power of logic, that if nature is purposeful, as to be only restricted by its axioms, then we having certainty of intent and not that of nature’s may be all that’s required in order to be able to know.



  54. Bee wrote

    I have repeatedly come across translations (probably made with help of some software) where the meaning of a sentence got entirely lost since in English there is a large degeneracy in adjectives and pronouns

    You know the story about a poem by Goehte, that was translated to Chinese, then to French and back to German under the assumption that it was a Chinese poem?

    (Apologies to all non-German speakers of this blog, but this is the best example I know of and a true story).


    Über allen Gipfeln Ist Ruh',
    In allen Wipfeln
    Spürest du
    Kaum einen Hauch;
    Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.
    Warte nur, balde
    Ruhest du auch

    Stille ist im Pavillon aus Jade
    Krähen fliegen stumm
    Zu beschneiten Kirschbäumen im Mondlicht.
    Ich sitze
    Und weine.

    See Internationale Kommunikationskulturen

  55. Hi Arun,

    So, Phil, we have a priori knowledge, such as the ideas of "I" and "think" that precede any experience?

    Fortunately for me someone more positive of meaning has already answered your query in the short verse which follows ;-)

    Between the idea
    And the reality
    Between the motion
    And the act
    Falls the Shadow

    -T.S. Elliot – Shadowland



  56. moinnNice Bee,
    That's some nice amount of thinking you have put into reasoning. Visit my blog
    and tell me what you feel.

  57. "The end he (the artist) strives for is something else than a perfectly executed print. His aim is to depict dreams, ideas, or problems in such a way that other people can observe and consider them." - M.C. Escher

    Hey, there can be no doubt?:)

    "All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    "Betrayal of Images" by Rene Magritte. 1929 painting on which is written "This is not a Pipe"

    See, that description(?)can happen whatever "creative format" you assign such certainty too. The culmination, after such a journey as to stand in front of your peers and demonstrate what it is this that has transpired, leaves you open to the questions you have raised. cont/....

    Trivium:Three Roads

    The etiquette for the scientist current has been shown in context of what is demonstrated in the PI institute lecture/presentation?


  58. cont/....

    Namagiri, the consort of the lion god Narasimha. Ramanujan believed that he existed to serve as Namagiri´s champion - Hindu Goddess of creativity. In real life Ramanujan told people that Namagiri visited him in his dreams and wrote equations on his tongue.

    Yes, in amidst the chaos. Some confuse the brains chaotic motion in such a mode as with a heat death? Nothing, contained in viable solutions as to suggest any coherent probabilities? The temperature in that state is not that hot?

    In Plato's Apology of Socrates, Socrates claimed to have a daimonion (literally, a "divine something")[6] that frequently warned him - in the form of a "voice" - against mistakes but never told him what to do

    It serves one to better understand "the angels and daemons" before one is to see "how such choices" are made as to ascertain how "such delusions" walk closely with ingenuity?

    The words daemon, dæmon, are Latinized spellings of the Greek δαίμων (daimôn),[1] used purposely today to distinguish the daemons of Ancient Greek religion, good or malevolent "supernatural beings between mortals and gods, such as inferior divinities and ghosts of dead heroes" (see Plato's Symposium), from the Judeo-Christian usage demon, a malignant spirit that can seduce, afflict, or possess humans See:Daemon (mythology)

    Some, are better recognizable as projectors of the situation as to realize that after having accepted "the view" as to the points of that certainty said, "what ifs" that the world will act according to this way.

    To be truthful on my initial reading of Pirsig's first initial thoughts on this, I was found myself lost for a bit in my foundations before I was able to realize his revelations not as a contradiction of earlier discovery yet as the self evident progression of understanding that his own contention holds.(author unknown:)of course that is not entirely true:)

    If such willingness to change is not evident, other then to accept such a process as with such certainty, then how is it progression is ever made if "no question" is ever answered?

    The person, evidently, has already chosen.:)Leaves, no room for doubt.

    Here the philosopher continues to speak even while reaching for the cup, demonstrating his indifference to death and his unyielding commitment to his ideals. Most of his disciplines and slaves swirl around him in grief, betraying the weakness of emotionalism. His wife is seen only in the distance leaving the prison. Only Plato, at the foot of the bed and Crito grasping his master's leg, seem in control of themselves. See:Jacques-Louis David: The Death of Socrates

    And thusly, this is how such a soul spoke.


  59. Phil,
    What on earth does that T.S Elliot verse mean?

  60. Hi Arun,

    “What on earth does that T.S Elliot verse mean?”

    Like any art a poem holds meaning for both the artist and its audience; sometimes the same and other times not. These words are from T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’, which speaks to me of what we would amount as being if only experience were to be the sum total of not simply our being yet more so all of existence.




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